Benzodiazepines Sleeping Pills Increases Dementia Risk

A recent study shows a direct link between sleeping pill use and dementia.

Recently the news released the findings of a French study[1]  that Benzodiazipines increase the risk of developing dementia by a 50%. In addition it was found that Benzodiazepines could lead to depression. If you use these sleeping pills, which are commonly prescribed, you may want to rethink that, especially if you are a senior, and consider other options that are available to you.

If you have an elderly parent, it would be a good idea to discuss with their physician the use of benzodiazepines as a sleep aid. Sleeping pills are often used in an institutional setting to help maintain order and control throughout the night; however, your parent or grandparent could be at an increased risk of developing dementia because of this practice. It would be wise to pursue other options if after a discussion with your doctor you are concerned about the well being of a loved one.

The study conducted at the followed over one thousand elderly adults for a period of 15 years, who had no signs of dementia. After the first three years on benzodiazepines the study found that participants were 50% more likely to develop dementia than those who did not take these sleeping pills.

The difficulty this study faces was determining the exact cause of the dementia and what the role of the benzodiazepines was. The research did consider a number of potential factors that could be involved in the development of dementia, including the possibility of an underlying condition in the brain that could play a role in the development of dementia. In addition the inability to sleep is an early dementia symptom so could it be that the sleeping pills are needed because it is early dementia, not the other way around.

Study Information

The Université Bordeaux Segalen in France, The Women’s Hospital, in Boston, USA, and other Brigham and French institutions. The research was financed from several sources, including the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM) and Université Bordeaux Segalen.

How to Sleep Without the Use of Sleeping Pills

The medical community recommends using benzodiazepine sleeping pills for no more than four weeks because of the side effects and the potential for dependency to occur. Try drinking less caffeine after supper, exercising before bed, Congitive Behavioral Therapy, and a number of other possible treatments before turning to sleeping pills. There is a great deal of help online.


The follow up at the end of the six years resulted in 253 new cases of dementia.[1] 23% of those with dementia hadnot used sleeping pills compared to 32% that had. After an adjusted analysis following a 5 year follow up the risk associated with developing dementia was 60%. A further follow up that ranged from 8 to 15 years later readjusted that risk to 50% .

The link between sleeping pills and dementia in the elderly was clear. While there were some limitations to the study, which you can find in the study, these limitations were minimal, and so should not be construed as overly important. In fact, the study determined that benzodiazepine sleeping pills should only be used as a last resort, in the treatment of acute insomnia, and that they should not be taken for longer than four weeks.

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Take a More Natural Approach
Some over-the-counter natural sleep aids contain herbs and melatonin to help mimic the body’s natural sleep cycle. Unlike sedative sleeping pills, most natural sleep aids can be taken if you wake up in the middle of the night, and won’t leave you groggy in the morning. Gently lulling you back to sleep without “knocking you out”.

1)Benzodiazepine use and risk of dementia: prospective population based study. BMJ. Published online September 27 2012. //

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